Bahamas, a chain of islands belonging to Great Britain, extending N. W. and S. E. between the N. coast of Santo Domingo and the E. coast of Florida, and lying between lat. 21° and 27° 30' N., and lon. 70° 30' and 79° 5' W. They are about 600 in number, of which only about 15 are inhabited, a great many of them being merely small rocky islets. The most important of them are Grand Bahama, Great and Little Abaco, Andros, New Providence, Eleuthera, San Salvador, Rum Cay, Great Ex-uma, Watling Island, Long Island, Crooked Island, Atwood's Key, and Great and Little Inagua. The group is about 600 m. long, and has an estimated area of upward of 3,000 sq. m.; pop. in 1871, 39,162. Most of the islands of the group are situated on the Bahama banks. They are generally very flat, long and narrow, formed of calcareous rock, with a light, sandy soil; though without running streams, there are numerous springs. Fruit is produced in abundance. Maize, yams, sweet potatoes, oranges, limes, lemons, etc., are among the products of the islands; there are also several valuable woods, as mahogany, fustic, lignum vitas, etc. In the more southerly islands are large salt ponds. The principal exports are salt, sponge, pineapples, and oranges. The climate is salubrious, and very beneficial to consumptives.
The imports in 1809 amounted to £240,584, and the exports to £168,002. The government is administered by a governor, aided by an executive council of 9 members. There is a legislative council of 9 members and a representative council of 28 members. The capital is Nassau, on the island of New Providence, which during the civil war in the United States was a famous place of resort for blockade-runners. The commercial activity by which it was then characterized has since fallen away. - San Salvador, called Guanahani by the natives, was the first land discovered by Columbus in 1492. The Bahamas were then inhabited by an inoffensive race, whom the Spaniards carried away and forced to labor in the mines of Santo Domingo and the pearl fisheries of Cumana. They then remained unoccupied till 1629, when the English settled them. These were dispossessed by the Spaniards in 1641, and the islands repeatedly changed masters until they were annexed permanently to the British empire by the treaty of 1783. At the close of the American revolutionary war many of the royalists settled in the Bahamas.